She always called the Sabbath a delight and looked upon it as the holy of the Lord and honourable;[1] [and] was very uneasy if worldly business was not dispatched in time that the Sabbath might be remembered before it came. She endeavoured to awake with God and possess her mind at first with proper thoughts to fit her for following work. She presently engaged in secret prayer to bespeak the Divine presence and assistance through the day; then read and sung,[2] as she had time, before family worship. When that was over, she retired again to read and sing and pray, and had a constant remembrance of the minister, for assistance and success amongst the hearers.

As she was early up on Sabbaths, so she was always early out, and her whole family with her, not so much regarding the dressing of her own dinner as the advantage of her servants’ souls. When public ordinances were over, she always withdrew for meditation; then examined her servants and inculcated upon them what they had heard; then prayed in her closet before family worship; and after that, filled up the spaces of the evening with spiritual and edifying discourses.

She was never more pleased in any ordinance than in singing, having a natural love to music, and a good understanding and skill in it. But yet a concord of voices could not satisfy her without an accord and harmony of heart with what was sung. And hence was it that we find in her diary this smart remark upon herself, that in such a place ‘I was so charmed with the novelty and sweetness of the tune that I had sung several lines before my heart was concerned in what I did.’

As to sacraments, she always showed a most religious regard to them, in obedience to the precept and in sense of interest. And for twenty-three years together, I never knew her absent from one, if bodily illness did not prevent her.[3]

Nor durst she rush upon that sacred ordinance without serious and solemn preparation for it. She carefully examined and proved her graces, her faith, love, repentance etc. and could not be satisfied only with former trials. She searched, and made diligent search into her heart and life to find out her sins, in order to confess and bewail them to God in secret. For this purpose she read over the commandments and some expositor of them, that she might better know the duties required and the sins forbidden in each, and the several aggravations of them. She then read over her diary and more especially reflected upon the sins she had been guilty of since the last sacrament, that she might watch and pray and guard against them for the future.

When she had prepared herself thus and endeavoured to excite her graces for proper exercises, she durst never trust to her own preparations, but only on the strength and merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, for acceptance and success. In his strength she was strong, and went forth with longing expectations of much grace and consolation in that banquet of love,[4] and seldom failed of what she had prayed and hoped for.

She then attended the ordinance in a humble sense of her own vileness, with an awful regard to the majesty of God, and great fear and care lest any worldly trifle should carry off her heart from its proper work. Her faith fixed upon Christ as the proper object of it, to receive and apply and appropriate him, and to live upon his fulness. Her love was engaged with great intention and ardour upon God the Father and the Son, for the discovery of such infinite grace and love in the redemption of man, and the blessings of an everlasting Covenant,[5] that she often, in her diary, appeals to God concerning the sincerity of her love to him: ‘Lord! if I love not thee, I love nothing; I love not my friends, I love not myself, I love not anything in heaven or on earth if I love not thee.’ Her heart was melted for sin when she looked upon him whom she had crucified,[6] and all the scenes of his sorrows from God and men and devils; nor did anything invigorate her prayers and resolutions and covenants against it more, than the love of God to her, and her love to him.

When sacraments were over, she would not suffer herself to be diverted, but constantly withdrew to her closet to bless God on her knees for what she had done and for what she had received; to beg pardon for her failings, the continuance of present impressions, and grace to be faithful in time to come.

[1] Isaiah 58:13, 14 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

[2] ‘Sang’, older preterite. We do not know what she sang, though her husband records some hymns and fragments that were precious to her.

Samuel Bury himself published a book of praises A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, Fitted for Morning and Evening worship in a private Family. This went through several editions with additional material. The final, fourth edition published in 1724, six years before his death, is the clearest testimony to Samuel Bury’s doctrine of the Trinity since it is replete with Trinitarian expressions in keeping with the standards of the best Reformed churches. Here God is set forth as one God, and in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, consubstantial, coeternal, equal in power and glory – indeed, there are over one hundred direct references to the Trinity within the pages of this work. Some of these expressions are included within this present volume.

[3] Nussbaum (op. cit.) mistakenly portrays Elizabeth Bury as a Quaker, (‘The sex of the soul preoccupies Bury as it does other Quaker women…She counters Quaker practice of dominance over women’ p.162). That Nussbaum here identifies Elizabeth Bury as a Quaker is evident not only from plain English usage but is confirmed by her uniform employment within the same chapter (pp. 154–177) of ‘other’ in the inclusive sense of ‘additional’ (emphasis added): “Fox and other Quaker leaders” p.157; “External testimonies come from…a group of other Quakers in her community” p.159; “Vokins journal, like other Quaker journals…” p.159; “Testifying believers find solace and companionship in the company of earthly friends, especially other Quaker women” p.160; “…the radical reforms that Fell and other Quaker women envisaged…” p.166; “Her diary, like that of other Quaker journalists, describes…” p.168; “Like many other Quaker women, Elizabeth Ashridge begins her account…” p.169; “For Elizabeth Harper, as for other Methodists…” p.162; “Margaret Fell, like many other Nonconformists…” p.164; “…speaking in tongues or other enthusiastic activities were also passionately encouraged…” p.166; “Like other spiritual women…Stirredge found herself dumbstruck…” p.168; “Crucial for women’s gaining courage is to speak the sense of friendship and union with other women” p.171; “…woman can begin to look to other women for a recognizable published tradition…” p.172; “These and other spiritual autobiographies are largely shaped by male directives…” p.175; “distinguishable from that of their male counterpoints…in their forming close friendships with other women…” p.175; “…separating a religious authorization to speak from all other forms of public discourse” p.176; “…women…may have wandered astray to make apertures for other women to violate gendered conventions” p.177.

Quakerism is markedly at odds with what we read in Elizabeth Bury’s diary: observing national fasts, having a love of the sacraments as a means of grace, teaching and studying the Westminster Assembly’s Catechism, singing of psalms etc. Elizabeth Bury was a thorough-going Presbyterian; indeed, she was the wife of the minister of the Presbyterian Church in Bury St Edmunds, and it was in the Presbyterian Church that she worshipped and served. It would have been unconscionable for Rev. Samuel Bury to marry a widow who merely exhibited Quaker tendencies, and Elizabeth Bury would have been appalled to be mistaken for a Quaker: George Fox, one of the founders of the Quakers, always refers to Presbyterians in disparaging terms in his Journal, was strident in his denunciation of Calvinism and the Reformed faith, and had thrown out the sacraments as means of grace, and the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice. ‘The chief principles of the Christian religion, as professed by the people called Quakers’ in Robert Barclay’s Apology for the True Christian Divinity (1678) were entirely inimical to the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura: the Quaker Apology asserted that the Scriptures ‘are not to be esteemed the principal ground of all truth and knowledge, nor yet the primary rule of faith and manners’ (cf. the celebrated Larger Catechism beloved by Elizabeth Bury: ‘The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience’ – Answer to Q.3). The tenets of Quakerism were repugnant to Presbyterians, e.g. on revelation, the Scriptures, worship, universal redemption, justification, communion, baptism, an educated paid ministry etc. Indeed, Richard Baxter branded the Quakers as heretical: ‘Alas, we have real heresies enough among us—Arians, Socinians, Ranters, Quakers, Seekers, Libertines, Familists, and many others; let us reject those that are to be rejected, and spare not’ – True Catholic and the Catholic Church Defined (1659).

Needless to say, for one ‘preoccupied’ with the sex of the soul (‘The sex of the soul preoccupies Bury as it does other Quaker women’ – Nussbaum, op. cit.), we would expect to find some references in her writing, but there are none, as the reader of this present work can verify. Nussbaum’s similar assertion (op. cit.) that ‘Bury argues strongly that Christ is neither male nor female’ is also entirely groundless: far from arguing strongly, there is not the slightest mention in her writings, nor is such a belief attributed to her by her contemporaries.

[4] Song of Solomon 2:4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

[5] The Covenant of Grace: the eternal plan of redemption entered into by the three persons of the Godhead, and carried out by them in its several parts. In it the Father represented the Godhead in its indivisible sovereignty, and the Son his people as their surety (Joh 17:4,6,9; Isa 42:6; Ps 89:3).

[6] It was on account of her sins that Christ was crucified. Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

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